We have a lot of calendars around right now, even more than usual for the first few days of the year. The dry cleaner gave us one and a friend gave us one that will be the official one that hangs in the kitchen and we have a homemade one that Lucy filled in (as pictured) and Brad’s transplant nurse gave us three, all printed with the significant dates for his course of treatment. (This despite the fact that mostly we use a shared Google calendar and have for years.) All of these are tracking slightly different things, but mostly the same: significant dates for the transplant. We don’t know when Brad will come home from the hospital or when he will be better and we have no other plans for the year besides “get through the transplant,” and so our entire year is all but blank, except for this one looming things. Despite the unknown end date, the girls and I will cross off the days until Brad comes home.
Here’s what we have on the ones given by the transplant nurse—a rundown of his treatment: Today, January 2, Brad was supposed to call the oncology floor at the hospital to find out what time to go in tomorrow. He did, and he’s supposed to be there at nine. Tomorrow, he gets admitted. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday: total-body radiation twice a day. (On Tuesday, also, Brad’s brother arrives here and then will start his prep.) The next two days: cytoxan (intensive chemotherapy). Next Sunday: a day of rest. Monday the 11th is what they call Day 0: the stem cells are harvested and transplanted into Brad that evening. And then we are waiting for engraftment—that is, for the stem cells to take and grow Brad a new immune system. Engraftment will likely take a couple of weeks, during which Brad will be tremendously vulnerable to infection and his white counts will be checked often until they begin to rise.
Of course, there are other things happening on our calendars. Lucy wrote on her calendar that today we were going to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We did, all four of us, and when the heroic music that all of us children of the 70s have heard a million times swelled, I could not help crying even though it came at a happy moment (no spoilers!). Brad pointed out that his transplant date is also the national college football championship. (I don’t think I’ll cry about that.) And the girls go back to school after winter break this Monday, and relatives and friends come to town, and late this month, oddly, marks twenty years since Brad’s and my first date.
Calendars, apparently, evolved from account books, and the word’s etymology seems to come from the root kele, “to shout”; on the first of the month, ancient bill collectors demanded that the accounts in their calendarium (account book) be settled up, and the word morphed from a descriptor of the account books to a more metaphorical meaning, an account of time. It has been odd and poignant that our calendars of Brad’s treatment are so closely aligned with the start of a new year. It serves as a reminder that we have been living on borrowed time for several weeks, and it is time to settle the account. I have been wishing I could freeze time, stop it somehow, or at least slow it, so that this doesn’t have to happen.
Another Latin-derived phrase has been ringing through my mind, these past days: Lente, lente, currite noctis equi (Run slowly, slowly, horses of the night). It’s from Ovid, but I actually know it from Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus. But the horses always go the same pace and the calendar’s new days come around again without fail. As Marlowe would have it, “The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike.” Our borrowed time is up, and tomorrow morning in Brad goes to the hospital.